Dear Representatives Orwell, Hayes, Klippert, and Goodman:
When a police officer encounters a person in mental or behavioral crisis, the outcome can be awful or inspiring. We all know horrible stories about officers killing people with mental illness because the person in crisis acted erratically or failed to obey commands. But we know, from working with officers in Kitsap County, that police with crisis intervention training are better prepared and often de-escalate frightening situations, keeping confused and agitated people safe while protecting those around them.
We also know, from working with police in our county, that CIT-trained officers do more than stabilize scary situations. We are proud to know officers who provide comfort to people tortured by their mental conditions, counsel family members desperate for advice, and take personal interest in finding people assistance. At a time when the news is focused on officer use of force across the country, it’s worth acknowledging that many police officers use their intelligence and their training to help people in need, and resolve incredibly difficult situations every day.
Will a few hours of state mandated CIT training eliminate tragic outcomes when police encounter people suffering from mental illness? It would be foolish to think so. But the new training requirements will make good outcomes more likely.
As importantly, passing SB 5311 sends an important signal—both to the Criminal Justice Training Center and to police agencies across the state—that policing in Washington is about helping people as well as promoting public safety. We support SB 5311 because we support efforts—promoted by CJTC’s Executive Director Sue Rahr--to promote a “guardian” style of policing. SB 5311 will improve police response to mental illness, and, in doing so, it will improve overall police performance and enhance the safety of Washington citizens. The state legislature has the opportunity, with this law, to remind police and the public that policing is a humane, service-oriented profession. We strongly encourage you to support SB 5311 when it comes before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow.
Board Members, Islanders for Collaborative Policing
Information about the Douglas M. Ostling Act/SB 5311 here.